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10 Tips for Choosing a Baby Name

Looking for the perfect baby name? Keep the following tips in mind as you search.
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Updated April 7, 2023
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Image: Maria Manco

Still searching for the perfect name? Take heart in knowing you’re not alone. Whether you’re debating different options with your partner or stressing over “Sara” versus “Sarah,” choosing a baby name can be a fun yet frustrating process. Many parents find themselves stumped when it comes to picking baby’s name—and all the endless options don’t make it any easier. To find some inspiration for figuring out the right baby name, check out the tips below, plus some other things to keep in mind.

Keep It In the Family

A traditional way to narrow down your choices is to pick a family name. In fact, in some cultures it’s common to use the full name of a father, grandfather, mother, grandmother, etc. One way to honor both sides of the family is to choose the first name from one side of the family and the middle name from the other side. Alternatively, you could also name baby after a personal hero, like a loved one, a historical icon or a figure in pop culture. Pick someone who means something special to you and who embodies the characteristics you wish for your little one.

Look to Your Heritage

Giving your child a name rooted in your personal history can add a sense of identity and interest. Try “Claude” if you come from a long lineage of French ancestry; “Freya” to pay homage to Scandinavian roots; or “Ashanti,” a name of African origin that means “gratitude.” Plus, don’t limit yourself to your own culture—many parents are now finding beautiful and interesting baby names from a wide variety of ethnic and historical origins. (One example: Suri Cruise has a Persian name that means “red rose”).

Consider Keeping it Private

Loved ones are bound to ask whether you’ve thought about baby’s name long before their arrival. If you’re excited to share baby’s name then definitely go for it, but don’t feel obligated to share if you don’t want to. Baby names can be highly subjective and are based on personal taste—just look at the unique celebrity baby names out there—but that doesn’t mean one option is better than another. Oftentimes loved ones may comment, offer unsolicited advice or try to sway your opinion. But if you’re happy with your baby name or baby name options, that’s really all that matters. There’s no harm in keeping it private and maybe even using a decoy name to evade all those questions until baby’s big arrival.

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Find Meaningful Places

Turn to a world atlas for your baby’s moniker like Victoria and David Beckham did when they named their son Brooklyn. Did you first meet in the music clubs of Austin? The hip Texas town is a great name for a boy or a girl. Love your yearly ski trips out west? Try “Jackson,” “Vail,” or “Aspen.”

Think About Perception

Ultimately, what you name baby is entirely up to you—and there’s no right or wrong choice. However, if you decide to go with an unconventional spelling or a gender-neutral name, you might find yourself spelling it over and over for forms at daycare or at the doctor’s office, as well as correcting people if they assume a gender. Thankfully, gender-neutral names are becoming more common and gender assumptions less common. That said, if you do opt for something a little more unique, be prepared for how others may react to it. That does not mean you have to justify it—instead prepare your answers to allay follow-up questions by telling people it’s a personal or family name.

Check Out SSA’s Baby Name Rankings

Since 1997, the Social Security Administration has been compiling an annual list of the most popular baby names parents have chosen for their children, born the previous year. If you have a few names in mind and are curious about their popularity, consider running them through the SSA’s website. Or, browse their lists for the most popular names to get a sense of what names to pick (if you want baby’s name to be trending) or avoid (if you want baby’s name to be unique).

Turn to Classic Books

Like Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, name your tot after a character from your favorite book (they named daughter Scout, after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird). Many names that are emerging in popularity are rooted in characters from classic books like Madeline, Eloise, Sawyer and Scarlett.

Practice Saying It on the Playground

When most people think of baby’s name, they think of cursive signs hanging in the nursery or beautifully embroidered baby clothing. In reality, once you’re in the throes of parenting and baby grows into an energetic toddler, you’ll probably be yelling their name across the house and on the playground more often than you think. Take that parenting truth into account while picking baby’s first and middle names.

Factor In Potential Nicknames

Once baby makes their debut, their actual name sometimes gets swept away in a sea of nicknames given by caregivers and adoring loved ones. In fact, the monikers given to your little one may not even resemble their actual name. So take any nicknames into consideration as you pick—and let this knowledge take some of the pressure off.

Use Online Resources

Picking baby’s name can quickly become an overwhelming process. Luckily, The Bump offers several resources to help expectant parents pick a baby name, including baby name lists by category, a middle name generator, baby name games and so much more. Check out all the baby name tools and ideas available on The Bump’s Baby Names Hub.

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